Monitor Your Accounts or You'll Be Sorry

When it comes to unauthorized bank account and credit card charges, the sooner you find out these charges have hit, the better. Checking account and Paypal account fraud are the worst because these charges reduce your available money. Depending on your bank’s policy, you may have to wait until a fraud investigation is complete before you can get your money back. In some cases (mentioned below), you might not get all your money back. With credit card fraud, on the other hand, it’s not your money that’s being compromised. It’s not as devastating, but still deserves attention.

Monitor Your Account Online

These days, it’s rare to have a bank that doesn’t have online access. Log in and review the transactions for all your bank accounts on a daily or semi-daily basis. The sooner you catch fraud, the better. If you wait until your bank account comes in the mail, you’ve waited too late. By that time, you may have already had your account drained. If your bank is still in the stone ages and doesn’t have internet banking, hopefully there’s an automated number you can call to check your account balances.

Account Fraud Liability

If your debit card is lost or stolen, you have two days to report the loss to be liable for only $50 in charges. However, if you report the loss between 2 and 60 days, you could be liable for up to $500. After that, you could be liable for all the charges. If the thief accesses your checking account funds in another way – like a wire transfer or forged check, report it as soon as possible, but the bank’s fraud department will determine liability.

Monitor your credit card the same way you monitor your bank accounts. Report suspicious activity to your credit card issuer immediately. If you report a missing credit card before someone has a chance to use it, you won’t be liable for anything. But, if a thief uses your credit card before you report it missing, you could be liable for up to $50 of the charges. If the thief uses your credit card number and you still have your credit card in your possession, you won’t be liable for anything.

Unauthorized Paypal Charges

Many freelance writers use Paypal. You can reduce the damage from Paypal fraud by checking your account frequently. Paypal’s User Agreement says they will refund unauthorized transactions if they’re reported within 60 days from the transaction. Make a habit of transferring money from your Paypal account on a regular basis, even if you have to transfer it into a “holding” account rather than your primary checking account. Paypal sends email notification of every transaction, so make sure your primary Paypal email address is one that you check regularly.

Other Ways to Monitor Your Accounts

Many banks make it easier to monitor your account. For example, some banks let you sign up for email or text alerts of your daily account balance. Set these emails to go to your phone to get the quickest notification. If you have a smartphone, you may be able to download an app to access your bank info. Paypal has an app like this that you can use to monitor your Paypal account.

Do you have a process for monitoring your accounts regularly?

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

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